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International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office

Abstract

This evaluation assesses how well IMF-supported programs helped to sustain economic growth while delivering adjustment needed for external viability over the period 2008–19. The evaluation finds that the Fund’s increasing attention to growth in the programs has delivered some positive results. Specifically, it does not find evidence of a consistent bias towards excessive austerity in IMF-supported programs. Indeed, programs have yielded growth benefits relative to a counterfactual of no Fund engagement and boosted post-program growth performance. Notwithstanding these positive findings, program growth outcomes consistently fell short of program projections. Such shortfalls imply less protection of incomes than intended, fuel adjustment fatigue and public opposition to reforms, and jeopardize progress towards external viability. The evaluation examines how different policy instruments were applied to support better growth outcomes while achieving needed adjustment. Fiscal policies typically incorporated growth-friendly measures but with mixed success. Despite some success in promoting reforms and growth, structural conditionalities were of relatively low depth and their potential growth benefits were not fully realized. Use of the exchange rate as a policy tool to support growth and external adjustment during programs was quite limited. Lastly, market debt operations were useful in some cases to restore debt sustainability and renew market access, yet sometimes were too little and too late to deliver the intended benefits. The evaluation concludes that the IMF should seek to further enhance program countries’ capacity to sustain activity while undertaking needed adjustment during the program and to enhance growth prospects beyond the program. Following this conclusion, the report sets out three recommendations aimed at strengthening attention to growth implications of IMF-supported programs, including the social and distributional consequences.

International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office

Abstract

This report updates the 2009 IEO evaluation of IMF Involvement in International Trade Policy Issues. Since then, the composition and structure of international trade have evolved, but trade has not regained its former dynamism. With increasing concern about potential winners and losers from trade, there has been a loss of political support for globalization, increasing trade tensions and protectionism, and the institutional framework supporting multilateral trade has come under heavy strain. The report concludes that overall the IMF deserves considerable credit for its active and timely response, playing a prominent role in championing commitment to an open, rules-based multilateral trading system. The Fund has largely implemented the recommendations of the 2009 evaluation and has strengthened and consolidated its trade policy analysis and advice, appropriately focusing on the key macroeconomic effects and associated risks of trade policy developments at the national and international levels. IMF advocacy on trade has been underpinned by a major expansion in the attention to trade policy issues in multilateral surveillance—and to some extent in bilateral surveillance—supported by high-quality research and analysis, building on the Fund’s well-established modeling capacity. Looking forward, the Fund will need to sustain its current high level of advocacy and analysis on trade policy issues and consider how to increase the overall impact of this work. Key challenges include: contributing to foster a recommitment to trade policy cooperation; further attention to translating multilateral surveillance into bilateral policy advice; consolidating relations with partner institutions; and increased attention to rapidly developing trade policy issues. Across all these dimensions, care will be needed to ensure appropriate evenhandedness in trade policy surveillance across countries. A holistic review of the IMF’s “trade strategy” would help to guide trade policy work and the allocation of scarce resources among competing priorities.

International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office

Abstract

In response to the Global Financial Crisis, the IMF launched many initiatives to strengthen financial surveillance and better advise member countries of vulnerabilities and risks. While these initiatives have not yet been tested by a major crisis, the efforts have delivered a substantial upgrade of the Fund’s financial surveillance, including giving the IMF clearer responsibilities over financial sector stability and cross-country spillovers; making periodic financial stability assessments mandatory for jurisdictions with systemically important financial sectors; invigorating efforts to integrate financial and macroeconomic analysis in bilateral and multilateral surveillance; enhancing cooperation with the Financial Stability Board and standard setting bodies to promote reforms and monitor agreed standards; and taking steps to recruit and train greater financial expertise. While recognizing these achievements, this evaluation finds that the quality and impact of the IMF’s financial surveillance has been uneven. The expansion of products and activities has presented the Fund with difficult trade-offs between bilateral and multilateral surveillance; between countries with systemically important financial sectors and other member countries; and between financial surveillance and other activities. Moreover, resource constraints have slowed the needed build-up of financial and macrofinancial expertise. These are critical issues, given the IMF’s position as the only international financial institution with the mandate and ability to conduct financial and macrofinancial surveillance over the full range of countries as well as the global economy, and given that these issues are at the core of the IMF’s responsibilities. Thus, to further strengthen financial surveillance, the evaluation recommends devoting greater resources to financial surveillance overall; further strengthening financial and macrofinancial analysis in Article IV surveillance; refining resource allocation for FSAPs; enhancing rigor and transparency in multilateral surveillance; intensifying efforts to be a global center of excellence on financial and macrofinancial research; and extending efforts to develop financial expertise among IMF staff.

International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office

Abstract

In 2008, the IEO undertook an evaluation on the IMF governance and concluded that effectiveness had been the strongest aspect of IMF governance, while accountability and voice had been the weakest. Since then, IMF governance has been strengthened aided by quota and voice reforms to address misalignments in shares and chairs as well as numerous improvements in governance procedures and practices. The update finds that IMF governance has proven its effectiveness in supporting the Fund to fulfill its mandates, but concerns remain on voice and accountability. Challenges remain related to representation and voice, interaction between governance bodies, the selection process for management, and the role of the G20 in IMF governance. Addressing these challenges will take time and may be subject to difficult tradeoffs between governance objectives such as preserving effectiveness while ensuring appropriate representation.

International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office

Abstract

This evaluation assesses the IMF’s work on countries in fragile and conflict-affected situations (FCS), addressing both (i) its engagement through surveillance, lending, and capacity development and (ii) the frameworks and procedures for its engagement. It finds that the IMF has provided unique and essential services to FCS to restore macroeconomic stability and rebuild core macroeconomic institutions as prerequisites for state building, playing a role in which no other institution can take its place. In this critical role, it is broadly acknowledged to have had a high impact. While the IMF has provided relatively little direct financing, it has catalyzed donor support through its assessment of a country’s economic policies and prospects. Notwithstanding this positive assessment, the IMF’s overall approach to its FCS work seems to have been conflicted. Not only has it failed consistently to make hard choices necessary to achieve full impact from its engagement in countries where success requires patient and dedicated attention over the long haul, but past efforts have not been sufficiently bold or adequately sustained, and the staff has tended to revert to treating fragile states using IMF-wide norms, rather than as countries needing special attention. The report proposes six recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the IMF’s FCS work: (i) to issue a statement of high-level commitment to FCS work for IMFC endorsement; (ii) to create an effective institutional mechanism with the mandate and authority to coordinate and champion such work; (iii) to develop comprehensive strategies for individual FCS; (iv) to adapt its lending toolkit to deliver more sustained financial support to FCS; (v) to take practical steps to increase the impact of its capacity development support to FCS; and (vi) to take steps to incentivize high-quality and experienced staff to work on individual FCS and find pragmatic ways of increasing field presence in high risk locations.